Leila Andrews from Southampton answered our recent plea to help elderly and vulnerable service users and has joined our army of volunteers supporting the lonely and isolated in her community.
The 35-year-old, mum-of-one, started volunteering with Communicare a couple of months ago. She says: “I saw an article and Facebook post about Communicare and attended one of their Open Day sessions just before the Coronavirus lockdown to find out more, and chatted to one of the team members. I felt aligned with what they were doing and wanted to be a part of it.”
Leila has worked in Marketing and Communications since leaving university in 2005. She has taken a career break after having her son last year and has recently taken on the role of a volunteer befriender.
“I worked in a rather corporate industry and always felt I’d missed my calling to be able to help others more. Before the lockdown, I enjoyed seeing family and friends, travelling with my husband, going to watch films, theatre or gigs and going to my gym classes. I just like being around people, so volunteering is actually really helping me too through lockdown, as well as those I befriend and assist with shopping. You can give as much or as little time as you can spare, every interaction can really help. It’s mutually enriching.
I get matched with someone on the list that Communicare has and get introduced. If all goes well, we become friends. Those I had already started meeting before the lockdown, I visited regularly and kept in contact with in between visits. We would go out for tea, I helped with little chores if needed, but mostly we chatted! I have struck up some great friendships already. I love catching up with them and we never have an awkward moment or nothing to talk about, quite the opposite! Now we do our socialising at a safe, sensible distance of course.
My volunteering varies week-to-week. You can’t really put a time on how long a chat can last, it depends on how the person is feeling. It’s taking more time since the lockdown, but that’s understandable. During the current crisis, I have extended my volunteering and am doing telephone calls with more people and, also, weekly shopping.
I have some people I now shop for regularly and some I do ad hoc, when needed. Communicare send out a request email once or twice a week, so I can reply to that and help when available. I could never just drop off the shopping and leave, so make an effort to have a chat at a safe social distance. I call beforehand to see how they are and check what they need. Once I have done the shopping, I use common sense and can easily social distance and have a chat to see how they are getting on.
I know I said that one of my reasons for volunteering was originally because I felt there was a lack of community care, but during the COVID-19 outbreak this has changed. So many people are using technology to its full advantage and are really connecting. Even though we can’t be physically close, there is a real sense of community spirit wherever you go. I hope this continues long after the virus has gone.
I would absolutely recommend volunteering! I get a lot out of it, I make new friends and get to hear about the lives and interests of the people I meet, it’s fascinating.”